Kira Olsen, Madalyn Wiard and Sadie Mumma warm up for their final performances in The Nutcracker.
Photo by McKibben Jackinsky, Hom
Surrounded by sparkling costumes, magical sets and increasingly difficult choreography, four high school seniors take to the Mariner Theatre stage for the last time as dancers in the annual holiday production of “The Nutcracker.”
“I saw the show the year before I was in it and it was like, ‘Wow, I want to do that,’” said Kira Olsen.
This is Olsen’s 11th year to be in the performance choreographed by Homer dance instructor Jill Berryman.
Recalling the anticipation she felt after trying out, Olsen said, “I’d run to the list with all the other little kids and look to find my name and be overjoyed when I’d see my name on it. Now it’s not quite as intense because I’m older and know there’s a larger chance I’ll get in, but it’s still a thrill.”
This will be Madalyn Wiard’s 10th year in “The Nutcracker.”
“I didn’t know what I was getting into, but I’ve had the greatest time,” Wiard said.
She clearly remembered her awe and admiration of older dancers when she was learning her first steps on the stage as a mouse and a lamb.
“I looked up to them so much,” Wiard said. “I just thought they were the most amazing, beautiful dancers.”
Sadie Mumma is performing for her third year in the Homer extravaganza. However, she danced in “The Nutcracker” for four years in Lake Arrowhead, Calif., before moving to Homer.
“When I see the little dancers dancing in the hall, I just love it and tell them they’re doing a good job, “Mumma said, recalling how important it was when, as a younger dancer, the older dancers would speak to her.
“If they ever said anything to me, even just smiled, I’d be walking on Cloud Nine. I even remember the corrections I got from the older girls when I was 8.”
Berryman has used the experience of the older dancers to create a mentoring and team environment, with the seniors taking responsibility for different groups of younger dancers.
“They take their group out onto the stage, run them through their dance, give them hints, help and critiques to make it better and then come get me to see it,” Berryman said. “It is just really marvelous. They say some of the same things I say to the kids, stay together, count, and when it comes from someone other than the teacher, maybe a little more listening goes on.”
For senior Ben Martin, who, in addition to dancing in “The Nutcracker” for the fourth year, has been given the task of choreographing a portion of a battle scene, the added responsibility of working with younger dancers has provided a glimpse into Berryman’s world.
“Jill sometimes gets stressed out when she’s choreographing and people don’t listen,” he said. “But once I got handed some choreographing responsibilities, I could definitely see where she’s coming from.”
Darrell Oliver and Ben Martin compare notes during rehearsals for The Nutcracker.
Photo by McKibben Jackinsky, Hom
Anticipating what the 2006 holiday season will be like without the heavy demands of Nutcracker rehearsals and the excitement of performing, Martin said, “It’ll be a different kind of year.”
“It’s so sad knowing this is my last year,” Mumma said. “I’m going to miss it so much, but I’m excited for the other girls.”
Wherever the future takes Wiard, she hopes it will bring her back to Homer so she can be in the audience a year from now.
“I think I’m going to be having withdrawals from “The Nutcracker” because it’s definitely been in my life so long,” she said. “I hope I’ll be able to make it back to watch. I’d love that.”
“It’ll be weird to have Christmas and not have “The Nutcracker,” Olsen said. “I’m sure I’ll be thinking about it and I want to be able to come back and watch it. I’ll probably have to hold myself down in my seat because I can’t get up on the stage.”
Busy with a cast of 77 young dancers and a dozen adults, including Tracy Kofford, a guest performer from New York, Berryman values the talents and contributions of Olsen, Wiard, Mumma and Martin.
“It is really a blessing this year to have four fine individuals who are so dedicated and committed to this project,” Berryman said. Since “The Nutcracker” began holiday performances in Homer in 1989, Berryman has seen other dancers come and go.
“Usually about this time of year I get a few letters from kids that have moved away, that go out and see other productions and actually audition for them,” she said of communication from previous performers.
The letters share their experience of how much and what a wonderful opportunity they had while in Homer, realizing the huge, huge big picture of the whole educational end of this project and the opportunities they were able to have while they were here. That’s fun. We’ve made our mark and that’s nice.”
Performances for “The Nutcracker” are scheduled at Mariner Theatre at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 3 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $10 all seats and available at the Homer Bookstore, Etude Music Studio and Solstice Music.
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